Like any good social scientist, Dr. Goff wants to know why he sees what he sees. What he sees is a national landscape where the overt expression of racism is in rapid and precipitous decline. Though racism is hardly vanished, as recent revelations about a certain celebrity deep fryer sadly attest, it’s clearly no longer socially acceptable: witness the repercussions from the disaster that is Paula Deen. (For comparison, when Gerald Ford’s Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz was forced to leave the White House after saying that “All the coloreds want is tight pussy, loose shoes, and a warm place to shit,” he was actually able to return to his job as Dean of Agriculture at Purdue University.) So if racism is now viewed by most citizens as inherently abhorrent, why do so many practical inequalities persist? Why are high jobless rates, low graduation rates, early pregnancies, and other generally debilitating factors still afflicting minorities in a way that seems incommensurate with the wholesale change in social attitudes on race?
Goff digs into the details to find out, peering at life–and race’s place in it–the way Bill James and sabermetrics examine baseball. In other words, Goff seeks objective metrics, which he believes will unveil more actionable truths. Turns out that a real estate agent absolutely innocent of any charge of racism will still on average show a black family fewer properties than he would a white family. And that’s even if the real estate agent is black. It’s things like this–insidious, often invisible things–that Goff studies. The more successful he is, the better chance society has to alter not just how it thinks (a transformation going well) but also what it does (going less well). Best case scenario Goff might uncover a path–illuminated by our recent (ostensible) enlightenment–that terminates in actual equality. With that job done, he’ll have the time to teach–as he hopes aloud on his university website–that course on the intersections of Allen Iverson, Prince, and Sonia Sanchez. As basketball fans we’d like to help: poets, all three.